Review Summary: Hej Ninja!(?)
It's a very rare opportunity for me to have the chance go into an album with absolutely no sense of what's to come, no preconceived notions of how it's going to sound, and no pre-determined biased either for or against the artist due to previously read reviews or comparisons to other artists. In fact, lately it seems like the time periods between these opportunities are becoming achingly lengthy, but somehow, one such album manages to come to attention every now and again, the latest of which is the self titled album of a band named Hej Ninja!, that was release late last year. To be perfectly honest, I still know next to nothing about the band itself, as even their own MySpace and last.fm pages give almost no information on the members. Actually, I shouldn't say "members", as there is a distinct possibility that Hej Ninja! is simply a one man project. The only background information I've been able to gather is that the band (or project) is based out of a place called Göteborg, Sweden, and the only member listed is a person named "Joel". However, maybe all of this relative lack of knowledge is for the better, as it's made the album one of the more entrancing listens I've come across in quite some time.
Even after upwards of twenty listens, Hej Ninja! has still managed to retain a very new, very foreign type of atmosphere, mainly due to the eclectic, yet not too excessive usage of genre mashing that takes place over the course of its nearly 40 minute run time. Over the course of just the first song, the music shifts from fairly haunting post-rock/post-metal pieces, to very thick and intense screamo/hardcore passages, to brief, unsettling passages of what can only be described searing, breakneck grind. The album continues to morph and twist itself around these ideas, although new approaches are taken every now and again to keep the feeling of monotony at a safe distance; the constant switching between live drums and a drum machine with varying degrees of synthetic sound serve as a fairly standard example of this. However, the album is much more than an ever changing collection of genre mashes. The entire album is unified by a singular sonic theme that recurrently manifests itself in various unnerving ways. Although, the album consistently shifts around in terms of style, the same mood is retained throughout much of the album, and there are quite a high number of repetitious sections, which is mainly where this recurring theme is brought up. The theme that the album seems to revolve around for much of its duration is simply a feeling of relative uneasiness that borders at times on unsettling nervousness. One of the more obvious examples of this recurring theme cropping up would be the second track, Cour, which spends a good deal of its six minutes trudging through variations on the same, seemingly basic melody. However, as the track wears on, the melody almost
begins to deteriorate into dissonance, the music begins to start and stop seemingly at random, little bits of ambience begin to creep in, strange, unsettling noises begin to form, and raw, strained screams begin to take shape in the background.
To be blunt, Hej Ninja! is not something to listen to casually, and it's definitely not an album that is meant for a wide range of people. It's a dark, unnerving, and fairly off-putting album, and it's accessibility (or lack thereof) isn't exactly helped by the occasionally raw and murky production, an aspect of the album which is more than likely intentional, and is really only prevalent during the loud, spastic sections of the album. I would say it would be interesting to see where the group (or simply he) will choose to go with the next release, but there is a distinct possibility that the project is inactive now, which, if true, is a sad fact, as Hej Ninja! is definitely one of the more engaging listens I've come across in quite a while.